DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike has surprised Buffy with Christmas accoutrements, and she has attempted to erect the tree by herself, only to be surprisingly aided by Spike, aid that ends in a kiss…
The moment he tasted her, Spike realized he must’ve dreamt about kissing Buffy at some point in his post-Hellmouth arrival unlife.
Not the lust-filled, pre-deathbite kiss that always played such a huge part in his early fantasies of killing her.
And not the magic-crisped kissfest inspired by Red’s little spell gone wrong where the mouth-to-mouth was half-lost in a euphoric haze created by a Cleaver world in which everything seemed eerily right.
And definitely not the searing memory of pressing his lips to her fevered skin during their tenure at the cabin---had it really only been a matter of days since they’d arrived?
No, this was sun-ripened fruit begging to be plucked, juices dripping at its first contact with hungry lips, and though the recollection it invoked was a mere shadow to the delight he was now savoring, it was too familiar not to have been imagined at some point.
He hadn’t meant to kiss her. When the crash of the tree had woken him from his nap, he’d been pissed as hell at the interruption, only pulling his jeans on as an afterthought when he realized he was still naked. He’d watched Buffy struggle to stand beneath the weight of the pine, and felt the anger start to dissolve when the renewed throbbing in her wrist reverberated through his muscles. Half-expecting her to give it up at that point, his lips had curled into a satisfied smile when she’d grabbed onto the trunk yet again, determined to make it work that time.
That’s my Slayer, he’d thought before he could stop himself.
Helping her when it threatened to fall again had been an instinct he hadn’t questioned until her unexpected gratitude had thrown him for a loop. It forced him to consider the faint flush in her cheeks, the pounding of her pulse, the fact that she wasn’t kicking him out of the personal space she held so bloody precious. And none of the arguments he’d carefully stacked against her, and none of the reasons why this was so very, very wrong seemed to matter any more.
So, he threw caution to the wind, and he kissed the Slayer.
And, ohhhh, it was good.
That hand that had been stroking her jaw slid around to the back of her neck, strong fingers interlacing with her hair as he pulled her ever closer. The first sudden impact had been met with a stiffening of her body, but now, only seconds after Spike’s mouth had met Buffy’s, her lips were parting, allowing his tongue to glide inside in a delectable sweep that made his blood roar for more, and the wonder that she was kissing him back only spurred him further, his free hand falling to her hip to hold her steady against his erection.
She was an inferno against his bare chest, slim fingers rising to brace herself as she kissed him back. When he felt the tiniest of scratches of her pinky’s nail across his skin, a shiver resonated through Spike’s body, tightening his hold as the moan escaped his throat.
That was the moment it all changed.
Still hungry, still ravenous to devour her, Spike’s mouth slowed to an alarming lethargy, each probe and each nibble a sinuous delight as he attempted to draw her out. His grips relaxed, the hand on her hip sliding up beneath her blouse to settle at the small of her back, and he focused his attention on the sweet draw of her tongue, drowning in the sensations that continued to ripple through him.
There was no first thought.
There was no second thought.
There was no thought at all, only the shock of being silenced by Spike’s lips, and the surprise of feeling his fingers tangle at the base of her neck, and the subversion of her fears as she kissed him back.
His mouth consumed hers, and though the question of how much he would demand from her lingered somewhere in the background of Buffy’s mind, she tossed it aside with her ready acquiescence, lips parting to let him in, to swallow and explore him just as extensively as he was her. The hard pressure of his hips against hers only made her craving for him burn brighter, and her heart leapt into her throat at the heady realization that the arousal straining at her through his jeans was all due to her.
She was trembling in desire when she lifted her hands, glorying in the unyielding set of his chest, but when Spike whimpered at the accidental brush of her fingernail across his dark nipple, the world slid sideways, to a place she didn’t know and a locus that endangered everything she’d ever believed.
Softer…with a gentility that hinted at fathoms of heart.
Slower…exploring unhurriedly, as if time itself didn’t matter, as if all there was, was him and her…here and now.
And to top it all off, he seemed ever so determined to make Buffy react further. When she felt his thumb begin caressing the line of her spine---no clothing in the way, just skin to skin, and the desire to make it much, much more---Buffy shuddered in response, hot and cold at the same time in alternating waves of confusion and desire.
This was Spike she was kissing. This was Spike who was making her feel this way. But before she could let the dissident thoughts continue, her fingers began moving again, this time in a matching rhythm with his hypnotic strokes, shaping over the lines of his muscles as if she needed to etch them indelibly into her body’s memory.
He groaned against her mouth, breaking the caress without leaving the sanctuary of her lips. “God, luv,” Spike murmured, but why he sounded breathless, she had no idea, “what’ve you done to me?”
It wasn’t anger in his tone, but amazement, as if he couldn’t believe for himself the kiss that had just transpired. Maybe if he’d been snarky and gloating, she might’ve been able to tag it for what it was. But he wasn’t. And it was that bewildered awe that brought her to her senses.
With the prickling of the branches sinking deeper into her skin, Buffy pulled back from the embrace, dropping her hands as she moved beyond the reach of his touch. She looked up to meet his eyes, dark with whispers of desire she had an odd feeling were reflected in hers, and swallowed, trying to find her voice.
“I don’t think when Mom was telling me to be nicer to you that that’s what she meant,” she said hoarsely.
She didn’t mean it derogatively; if anything, it was supposed to be a joke to lighten the heavy mood that had settled between them. But as she watched, the softness that had relaxed the chiseled lines of his face dissipated, leaving behind the stark austerity of disbelief before it hardened into resentment.
“Didn’t realize I was the newest charity case for the Summers clan,” he said, taking a step back. “Bad enough I have to play whipping vamp to Rupert’s whim, but kowtowing to the Slayer’s hormones ‘cause she’s got an itch to scratch and her thinkin’ she’s doin’ me a favor?” He shook his head, heading to the kitchen. “No thanks.”
She watched him, jaw agape. “What are you talking about?” she exploded, following after to grab his arm.
Snarling, Spike yanked himself away, their twin cries of pain echoing throughout the cabin when Buffy grabbed her sore wrist and he grabbed his head. “Sod off, Slayer,” he growled. “It may hurt like hell, but push me, and I’ll push back, mark my words.”
“Are you going to tell me what that was all about back there?” she demanded.
“If you don’t know, it’s no wonder Soldier Boy did a walkabout,” he shot back.
His words stung, but they only served to steel Buffy’s resolve. She wasn’t thrilled that the kiss had happened in the first place---as amazing as it had seemed in the moment---but it was at least explainable by the events of the past couple days. “You didn’t seem to be short on the enjoying of it,” she said through gritted teeth. “Because that sure as hell isn’t a stake in your pocket, now is it?”
Blue eyes flashed in growing anger as he put the table with its heaped ornaments between them. “This where you start demanding your chastity belt back?” he said. “Hate to break it to you, Slayer, but you’ve been wanting that little taste of Spike since we took this shacking up gig. More than that, even, I’d wager.”
“You’re a pig, Spike.”
“You say that like you forgot for a mo.”
“Like that’s even possible, with you in my face and under my feet all the time.”
“Don’t forget in your bed, pet. After all, you were the one who asked me there.”
“This is not about me!”
“Isn’t it?” An angry hand swept over the array of Christmas finery she’d created. “If you think I give a bloody fuck for any of this claptrap, you’re more off your box than Dru ever was.”
“Oh, no, you don’t get to play that game.” A few steps, and the table was no longer an obstacle between them, with Buffy standing in full-fledged Summers anger before an unwavering Spike. “You did that. I didn’t ask for any of it, not the deck the halls show, not for you to go all Paul Bunyan. And I most certainly did not ask for you to kiss me.”
“Seemed to me like you were beggin’ for it. Practically fallin’ at my feet, you were.”
“That was the stupid tree’s fault!”
An eyebrow quirked. “The tree made you want me?”
“I don’t---gah!” Whirling on her heel, Buffy began to storm away, only to turn back almost right away and jab her finger into his chest. “Why do you have to always go and ruin everything, Spike? Every time I get my life in order, you manage to come through it like a huge, bleached wrecking ball, smash it all to bits, and then leave me to pick up the pieces.”
She’d expected him to retreat at her physical assault, as innocuous as it was. Instead, he stood firm, glaring down at her in righteous anger, tiny glints of amber flickering in his irises. “There’s nothing in order ‘bout you and me stuck here together, Slayer. Sooner you realize that, the happier you’ll be.”
“But there was.” It came out before she could stop it, tight and furious and so low she wondered if he even heard her. “We’re a team, remember? You and me versus the First, or Second, or whatever the hell Jenny is, versus whoever’s after that Holly person? Is any of this ringing a bell in that thick skull of yours? Or has your chip permanently shorted out any thinking capacity you might actually have left?”
“You made those rules. Not me.”
“Wrong answer, Spike. You made this bed. The second you saved me. And now you’ve got a problem with it? Guess what. Too bad.”
She didn’t wait to see what response he had to her words, her anger finally getting the better of her and driving her away from his space and into the refuge of the bedroom. The door shook in its frame from the force with which she slammed it, and she leaned heavily against its inner sanctum, sliding down its length to sit on the floor, exhausted.
Why was she surprised at his behavior? Why did she think for one second that Spike wouldn’t turn on her and lash out like that? Why did she care?
Because during the space of that kiss…that toe-curling, hair-raising-on-the-back-of-her-neck, stupendous kiss…she’d forgotten about all the extraneous crap that seemed to clutter her mind when he wasn’t in her direct line of sight. And he had, too. Or he seemed to. He’d sounded just as shocked and surprised and amazed at what had been happening between them as she was. The possibility that she could’ve been taken in by those words, by the sincerity in his voice…hurt.
She blinked back the sudden sting of hot tears. Damn you, Spike. This doesn’t have to be that hard.
It had been a long day, and it was promising to be an even longer night. With a fatigued sigh, Giles tossed his glasses onto the flattened scroll on the desk, ignoring the faint click of the door as it opened and closed behind him.
“You’re missing tea,” Maria said.
He stiffened in his chair, his eyes returning automatically to the text before him. “I have work to do,” he replied. When the decision to say to hell with the masquerade settled almost a split second later, he added, “As do you, if I’m not mistaken.”
Soft footsteps echoed through the formal library in which he was working, and he glanced up when she took the seat opposite the desk. As the previous night when he’d dined with her, her appearance was immaculate---a trim blouse tucked conservatively into wool trousers, gray hair carefully coiffed into that pixie cut---and he hurriedly tore his gaze away, refusing to give his captor any more attention than was absolutely necessary.
“This doesn’t have to be that difficult,” she said softly. “I know you disapprove of my methods, but really, this obstinacy regarding my company is rather childish, don’t you think?”
“I wasn’t aware you required me for my conversation skills,” Giles said, and scribbled down another note on his pad.
The room was quiet for a long moment, the only sound the heavy ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner. Though the words on the scroll bled before him, Giles continued his pretense of translating it, silently cursing his guest for disrupting his concentration. It wouldn’t do to appear rattled before her---and why he was, he wasn’t particularly sure---but he would be damned if he’d give her the satisfaction in knowing she could get to him.
“Your Slayer isn’t at any of the hospitals.”
The declaration made him freeze, and Giles tipped his head to look at her. He had no choice but to ask. “And the morgues?”
Maria shook her head. “Police reports indicate finding the car at the crash site, but it was abandoned. They did, however, find blood in the passenger’s seat.”
Buffy’s seat… “What else did they find?” He leaned forward, blue eyes flaring. “Did they conduct a search of the area?”
“The storm prevented any immediate action. By the time the weather was cooperating, there was no indication of any disturbances around the car at all. No footsteps, nothing that couldn’t be explained by the accident.”
The possibilities pitched through Giles’ mind, faster and faster as each potential scenario repeated in infinite time until the strength in his shoulders seemed to flag. “But they haven’t found a body,” he said, grasping at straws. “There’s no reason to think that she didn’t make it to safety and just isn’t waiting out the bad weather.”
“No, there’s not.” He flinched when she reached forward and patted his hand. “I am sorry, Mr. Giles. If I had known you had a passenger in the car…”
Her use of the singular conjured an image of Spike, and the chance of a different likelihood began to form inside his awareness. No bodies…no mention of another victim in the accident…was it even possible that the vampire would do such a thing?
“What about the items in the boot of the car?” he asked carefully. “Were those gone as well?”
She frowned. “I don’t know,” Maria admitted. “I don’t remember seeing any note of them in the police reports when I read them over. Was there anything special about them that I should be aware of?”
If only you knew, he thought. There had been blood in the trunk, as well as weapons. Not exactly items that would go unmentioned in the event of an odd accident that was missing any sign of a victim or driver, not when non-Hellmouth police would most likely be looking for any clues they could possibly find in order to solve the mystery. Leaning back in his seat, Giles mulled over the connotations of such evidence, keeping his face as blank as possible.
“I need to call Mrs. Summers,” he said evenly, ignoring Maria’s question. “She’ll be worried, and I need to reassure her that her daughter is all right.”
There was a pause. “What will you say to her?”
Blue eyes met black ones. “That the dreadful weather is forcing me to stay in at the lodge through the holidays, and that Buffy is perfectly fine.” Oh, he was so good at lying. Would Maria be able to tell?
Apparently not. “Do you think it’s…fair to mislead her so?”
It took all his control not to laugh in her face. “For now,” Giles said simply. “She wasn’t aware of Buffy’s calling for years. Stalling her for a couple weeks will be child’s play.”
Maria nodded, seemingly satisfied with his response. Her eyes fell to the scroll, and he saw her scan the unfamiliar text with interest. “I assume your reluctance to join us for tea is due to a breakthrough in the translation,” she said, changing the subject.
“No breakthrough,” he admitted. “But it will come.”
She rose to her feet, and smiled. “Of course it will. That’s why I have you here. Your skills with these particular types of scrolls are legendary, Mr. Giles.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere.”
“And neither will starving yourself.” She strolled toward the door, only glancing back once her hand was on the knob. “I’ll have dinner sent in to you tonight, but this will be the last time I allow you to dine alone. I expect a certain civility in my house, and I will not have you disrupting that with your childish displays. Are we understood?”
He refused to respond, his gaze level as she waited. When she finally sighed and left the room, he collapsed back into his chair, his mind already well at work on his next problem. There would be no guarantees that his phone call to Joyce would not be monitored; he would have to be extra careful about relaying his message to her if he didn’t wish to be caught out.
To be continued in Chapter 14: Mistletoe and Holly…